By Shaimaa Fayed
CAIRO, July 3 (Reuters) - He has no army pedigree, lived in the West for decades and has criticised successive rulers of Egypt, from Hosni Mubarak and the generals who replaced him to the now ousted Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi.
Now, more than two years after the anti-Mubarak rebellion, Mohamed ElBaradei, 70, is the designated negotiator for the opposition forces that clamoured for the army to remove Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government.
Military, political and diplomatic sources tipped him as favorite to head an interim government under Adly Mansour, a senior judge sworn in on Thursday as Egypt's acting president.
ElBaradei met General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Wednesday and was present when the armed forces commander announced that Morsi was no longer president and suspended the constitution.
"ElBaradei is our first choice," a source close to the army said. "He's an international figure, popular with young people and believes in a democracy that would include all political forces. He is also popular among some Islamist groups."
The source was referring to some members of the Nour party, an ultra-orthodox Salafi group that has been both an ally and a rival of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.
Political sources said ElBaradei, who won the Nobel peace prize for his work as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), would also be acceptable to Western powers that have studiously avoided calling Morsi's removal a military coup.
Other contenders include former Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri and former Central Bank governor Farouk el-Okdah.
ElBaradei said on Thursday that the army's roadmap, under which a panel for national reconciliation will be set up and the constitution will be reviewed before parliamentary and presidential elections, would "continue the revolution" of 2011.
He entered Egypt's political stage in 2010, stirring up decades of calcified politics under Mubarak by saying he might run for president in 2011 if a fair vote was guaranteed.
At the time, many of his countrymen admired his pluck in challenging Mubarak, who had rigged elections for decades, but otherwise found it hard to identify with the bespectacled, soft-spoken United Nations diplomat who had spent so long abroad.
Mubarak's allies painted ElBaradei, a defender of human rights and social freedoms, as a "foreign agent". The opposing Islamist camp dismissed him as "too liberal" for Egypt.
A hate-figure for some hardline Islamists, ElBaradei was named in February, along with a leftist politician, by a Muslim cleric as meriting the death penalty under Islamic law for seeking to topple Morsi.
ElBaradei has long pressed for Egypt to sign a $4.8 billion loan deal with the International Monetary Fund, which Morsi's government initialled in November but never ratified.
The deal could help kick-start an economy battered by the collapse of tourism and investment due to political turmoil since the 2011 uprising. But it would also entail politically risky tax increases and cuts in fuel and food subsidies.
ElBaradei, a supporter of private enterprise, says austerity is the price Egypt must pay for the IMF loan.
"I think there is no other option. Nobody disagrees that the economy is ailing, and nobody disagrees that you have to take certain measures," he said in an April 30 interview.
Egypt needed private investment, but to attract that it needed political consensus, something he said was lacking under the Muslim Brotherhood government.
"Private investment obviously needs 100 percent political consensus. People need to come here and see there is law and order, institutions, a minister who can sign a piece of paper. It's not there right now," ElBaradei argued.
He disappointed many of his supporters in January 2012 when he pulled out of the presidential race while the interim army council was in power, saying the election would be a farce without a constitution defining the president's role.
Cynics said the liberal contender, who was still spending much of his time overseas, withdrew because he stood no chance against the Brotherhood's well-oiled voting machine.
ElBaradei's critics have often called him out of touch with ordinary Egyptians, communicating mostly via Twitter, although he has sought to counter this lately with more public speeches.
The latest tide of protest that has swept Morsi away has also brought ElBaradei, who founded the liberal Dustour (Constitution) party in 2011, back into the limelight.
Steadfast in his rejection of one-man rule and in his advocacy of "peaceful disobedience" to fight oppression, he says building bridges is vital in a polarised Egypt.
"Success or failure is now on the altar of political consensus, because if you don't have consensus, you don't have stability," ElBaradei said in the April interview with Reuters and the Associated Press in April at his Cairo villa.
"Without stability, you don't have an economy going on, and without an economy going on, you will end up with hungry, angry people."
In his time at the IAEA, ElBaradei is credited with helping transform a little-known U.N. technical body into a high-profile agency prepared to take a stand on political issues relating to non-proliferation - which critics said went beyond its mandate.
Before the 2003 U.S.-led war in Iraq, ElBaradei highlighted the lack of evidence that Saddam Hussein was developing nuclear arms, angering many in the U.S. administration, but winning admirers among President George W. Bush's critics.
Soon after leaving the IAEA he became more politically involved and returned to Egypt in February 2010 to an exuberant welcome from supporters who hoped he would run for president.
He sees the National Salvation Front, the umbrella that groups non-Islamist parties, including his own Dustour, as eventually splitting into liberal and leftist blocs.
"You only need two big parties that can stand up to the right, or whatever you call them. I think everyone agrees that in the long run that is where the NSF should go, that we have a big liberal party and a big leftist party. It's probably easier with regards to the liberal party. We have been talking." (Additional reporting by Patrick Werr; Editing by Alistair Lyon)
BEFORE YOU GO
07/05/2013 8:40 PM EDT
Photo Purportedly Of Muslim Brotherhood Leader's Arrest Posted To Facebook
Muslim Brotherhood's Khairat El Shater, former presidential candidate and wealthy businessman has been
He is seen as Brotherhood's second in command and political strategist. He was taken into custody on suspicion of incitement to violence.
-- Ahmed Shihab-Eldin
07/05/2013 7:03 PM EDT
Muslim Brotherhood Leader Arrested
From the AP:
CAIRO (AP) — An Interior Ministry spokesman says the deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood, Khairat el-Shater, considered the most powerful man in the organization has been arrested.
Spokesman Hani Abdel-Latif says el-Shater and his brother were arrested late Friday from an apartment in eastern Cairo on allegations of inciting violence against protesters in recent days.
Read more here.
07/05/2013 6:54 PM EDT
Egyptian Military Briefly Confiscates CNN Camera
A CNN crew filming from the 6th October Bridge in Cairo on Friday night was interrupted by the Egyptian military in the middle of a live report. An officer confiscated the camera, though it was later returned (minus some video footage), according to CNN.
Watch the video here.
07/05/2013 5:31 PM EDT
CNN Crew Briefly Investigated In Cairo
Cnn crew in Cairo fine. Sipping tea by the Nile, enjoying the evening cool, waiting for Army officer to return our camera. #Egypt #30June— benwedeman (@bencnn) 3 years ago
07/05/2013 5:06 PM EDT
Gun Battles Reportedly Continue
Gun battles continue on Gama3a Bridge near Cairo University— Mohamed Fadel Fahmy (@Repent11) 3 years ago
07/05/2013 4:31 PM EDT
Health Ministry Says Death Toll Rises To 17
Reuters: State television quoting Egypt's health ministry says 17 people were killed during violence on Friday— Sky News Newsdesk (@SkyNewsBreak) 3 years ago
07/05/2013 4:27 PM EDT
Reports: Missiles Fired In El-Arish
Sky News Arabia: "Egyptian Helicopter Fires Missiles at Two Targets in Al-Arish" #Sinai #Egypt #June30— Liam Stack (@liamstack) 3 years ago
07/05/2013 4:22 PM EDT
Curfew In Sinai
Reuters reports that a curfew has been imposed on the towns of Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah, two towns in North Sinai near Egypt's border with Israel.
07/05/2013 4:18 PM EDT
Statement By The House Foreign Relations Committee On Egypt
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the Committee’s Ranking Member, released the following statement in response to ongoing events in Egypt:
"The decision by the Egyptian military to take state authority out of the hands of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood government marks another sharp turning point in Egypt’s incomplete revolution. What the Brotherhood neglected to understand is that democracy means more than simply holding elections. Real democracy requires inclusiveness, compromise, respect for human and minority rights, and a commitment to the rule of law. Morsi and his inner circle did not embrace any of these principles and instead chose to consolidate power and rule by fiat. As a result the Egyptian people and their economy suffered greatly.
"It is now up to the Egyptian military to demonstrate that the new transitional government can and will govern in a transparent manner and work to return the country to democratic rule. We are encouraged that a broad cross-section of Egyptians will gather to rewrite the constitution. All parties in Egypt must show restraint, prevent violence, and prepare to be productive players in the future democratic Egypt. We encourage the military to exercise extreme caution moving forward and support sound democratic institutions through which the people and future governments can flourish."
07/05/2013 4:06 PM EDT
PHOTO: Clashes In Cairo
Supporters and opponents of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi clash on the 6 October bridge, near Maspero, where Egypt's state tv and radio station is located, in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, July 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)